Thursday, October 14, 2010


While I wasn't paying attention, a new category arose in the field of gerontology. "Supercentenarians" describes people who have lived to the great age of 110. These individuals have been the subjects of research and of portrait photography. In his 2003 series "Living in Three Centuries: The Face of Age," Mark Story features the photo of a 110-year-old man (1st image) whose father stood on the platform during the Gettysburg Address. Story describes, "All of a sudden I realized that I was photographing a person whose father stood next to Abraham Lincoln in 1863. I started to cry and got goose bumps because it struck me just how old 111 was, and how far it reaches back in our country's history." Here is a sampling of supercentenarians:

Sarah DeRemer Knauss (2nd image)
119 years (1880-1999), United States
Sarah lived her entire life in Pennsylvania. Nothing ever fazed her, according to her daughter, who survived Sarah by 5 years, dying at age 101.

Hendrikje Schipper (3rd image)
115 years (1890-2005), Netherlands
Henny was a premature baby, a sickly child, and a breast cancer survivor. She lived with her parents until she was 47, when she married. At age 82 she decided to will her body to science, and was found to have died of undiagnosed gastric cancer.

Christian Mortensen (5th image)
115, (1882-1998), Denmark
Christian emigrated to the U.S. at age 21 and was employed as a tailor, a milkman, a restaurateur, and a factory worker. In 1978, he arrived at a retirement home on his bicycle, declaring that he was there to stay. He died there 20 years later in his sleep, leaving no living relatives.

María Esther Heredia de Capovilla (6th image)
116, (1889-2006), Ecuador
María was born into a well-to-do military family and had 5 children of her own. She was given Last Rites at the age of 100, when she nearly died of a stomach ailment, but survived another 16 years before succumbing to pneumonia.

There is no consensus on such longevity, except that once one reaches 100, heredity is the defining factor. I would suggest that sense of humor also plays a role. When Jeanne Calment (1875-1997) of France (4th image) became a supercentenarian, she quipped, "I've only ever had one wrinkle, and I'm sitting on it."

1 comment:

  1. The only one I recognize is Jeanne, as she was much celebrated here in France. I read an article recently about the Japanese living the longest, or having the most citizens over 100, but they found out many had died without the death being documented. In at least one case, the body was kept hidden by the family because they wanted to keep getting the pension money!


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